Tomorrow Aston Villa play Fulham at Villa Park.
Nothing too exciting about that you may say and an encounter that is far from the most attractive of Premier League fixtures; the sort of game where you would expect a narrow home win more often than not.
The bookies have the Villans as slight favourites but anyone who knows their football will have Fulham as one of their weekend bankers.
The bare facts are that this season Alex McLeish’s side have been abysmal at home and a trip to Villa Park is one opponents are rightfully relishing. A game where away fans know it’s only a matter of time before the home support start agitating against their team and especially the manager.
The appointment of the former boss of bitter rivals Birmingham City was greeted with, at best, indifference amongst the Holte End hardcore.
Many claim their unhappiness with the manager has more to do with what they see as a perceived negative style of play, rather than his previous employment three miles across Birmingham.
But with a last home win way back in early November, Villa Park is clearly no fortress and their form there is becoming a growing problem for a club which currently lie 15th in the table, eight points clear of the bottom three.
The situation saw Erdington-born forward Gabriel Agbonlahor make a plea to fans this week to lay off McLeish and get behind the team – in other words respect the players and manager for at least 90 minutes while they try to turn their home form around.
“The fans are entitled to their opinions,” said Agbonlahor. “I think the chairman has made a choice in bringing the manager here and everyone has to get behind him. I think it affects the players otherwise.
“You only have to look at what happened at Blackburn where Steve Kean was getting a lot of abuse, although it has died down a bit now. But it does have an impact on the players and does affect them when fans are not backing the manager and not turning up to games.
“In previous seasons they have got behind the team no matter what and I think if they can keep doing that it helps the players. If they really get behind the team and the players it can give everyone a real lift.
“We need every single one of them to support us from now until the end of the season.”
An impassioned plea no doubt but will it work and can respect transfer to the stands?
The Football Association is demanding respect all round – for referees, fellow professionals and managers. But when players can’t even shake hands with each other, managers shout abuse and square up on the touchline – last weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby a case in point – what are the chances of persuading supporters to listen?
McLeish’s appointment at Villa Park has failed to pay off with attendances down and just 14 goals scored at home this season – only Wigan have scored fewer.
And when fans aren’t happy they’ll always make their feelings known – despite the pleas of players like Agbonlahor.
The Villa striker added: “There needs to be patience. You only have to look at clubs like Chelsea where the manager does not get that chance and it makes it more difficult for you as a player.
“I think he (McLeish) has come in at the beginning of the season and fans need to give him time to work his ideas through the club. It’s a new team and we’ve had a lot of injuries, which means we have never really had that steady side every week.
“Robbie Keane has gone, Darren Bent and Richard Dunne are both injured, Ciaran Clark’s missing as well.
“We are all in it together. There has never been a problem here with any of the players. I think everyone knows their job and I think we’ve been unlucky not to get more wins this season. Hopefully we’ll get a few more breaks.”
With breaks on the pitch few and far between for Villa this season, the players and manager may have to wait a little longer to get the fans back onside.
Tags: Alex McLeish, Aston Villa, Barclays Premier League, Fulham, Gabriel Agbonlahor, RESPECT, Villa Park